As each day in COVID-19 lockdown passes, it’s harder to remember what a day looked and felt like before the first stay-at-home orders, in early 2020. My memory of life is becoming increasingly vague as the days in lockdown take over as our new state of normality. It’s sad.
Willing myself to recall life before COVID-19, initial thoughts flooding my mind brings to light the core of what is missing today. The seemingly insignificant occurrences make life a memorable and pleasant experience. The sense of togetherness and feeling connected to others, whether friends, family, or groups within the community. Gone. Having the confidence to plan for a week in advance, including children’s activities, weekend adventures or short getaways without having to think twice. Gone. To have something to look forward to and the feeling of anticipation that builds as that something draws closer. Gone. I can’t remember the last time we could look forward to something so much we felt like we may burst inside!
Next, everyday pleasantries come to mind, qualities possibly taken for granted but now craved so badly it hurts. Things like:
- A friendly smile with strangers walking down the street
- Brushing shoulders in the schoolyard
- Feeling welcome in our child’s schoolyard
- Chatting to our child’s teacher
- Meeting up with and hugging whoever the hell we want
- Having the freedom to welcome treasured friends and family into our home
Such small gestures have a significant impact on how we feel from day to day. They are the essence of what’s missing, yet they are vital components to our sense of well-being. In a previous blog, Connection — a powerful lesson from the pandemic, I discussed humans being “social beings” and the importance of closeness and being cared for. Here in Australia, our life has been pretty good. We’ve had reason to fear for our fellow countrymen and women. This is where we need to return; this is one thing that has become clear.
It’s mind-boggling to think about how dramatically life has changed in a short period. Everyone has a different perception of what this concept of “different” means. What is relevant to me may not be a factor in the life of people around me and vice versa. For some, extended lockdowns mean too much spare time and boredom sets in. For others, it signals hectic days with no spare time, no time to stop and breathe. Sadly, for many people, financial struggle is a new reality due to losing their stream of income. Many small business owners must decide whether they can afford to stay open. Whichever way we are personally experiencing the pandemic, it’s a sad state of affairs.
In my life before lockdowns, I was in the midst of an epic journey, an important one that I could no longer ignore. This journey became my “job”, my “occupation”, and more. My job was to work towards recovery from a deadly eating disorder. As part of this role, human connection was vital. People played a fundamental role in my daily life, and part of my discharge plan was to reach out and connect. Something I’d previously been reluctant to do. In recovery from my illness, I was gaining confidence to leave the safety of my home and enter the world of unknowns. I was learning to prioritise the need to take care of myself.
I took on this challenge of recovery, plunging headfirst into a life full of risk and uncertainty. My journey began with a camera and grew in ways I could never have imagined. Each week I’d meet face-to-face with my recovery team, reconnect with people from my past, and meet new people who took on important roles as life-as-me began to evolve. I began searching for places to go, making exciting discoveries and meeting people who may help me in this quest to understand my camera and my healthy-self life. What came next, I could never have anticipated. I created the Picture Healer’s new website. There, I’d write blogs featuring highly personal and sensitive information that I once swore I’d never share. I also chose to share my photos, placing me firmly in a place of vulnerability as my fledgling skills in both areas were developing.
I’d also write about my experiences for websites other than my own, and if that wasn’t enough to push my own limits, a book was close behind (soon to be released!). Writing and photography have become my occupation; you could say, I was living the dream. I was working for myself, and better still, I could fit it around life without stressing my world. While my two young children attended school, I worked on my new endeavour and everything else, such as shopping and appointments, slotted in nicely around this. Life was coming together perfectly.
I’d meet with my mentor and editor, June, each Tuesday morning at the Geelong Library cafe, where we’d sit talking and drinking coffee with not a worry in the world (except for getting my next blog out promptly). Oblivious to what was happening around us, there was no concern for the number of people inside the cafe. Likewise, covering our faces with a mask was unthought of, as was checking in with a QR code to trace our every move. We didn’t need to consider COVID-19 vaccination or whether people had snuck into Geelong, when not permitted to do so. Every table was full of bubbly people going about their daily routines. It wasn’t uncommon to see people sharing sweet treats or a peck on the check, translating into “hello” or “goodbye”. A sneeze or a cough was not a reason to fear or to glare at the offending person. This was life, and we were so lucky to have it.
Weekends were busy. Some weekends I remember everybody in my family would be need of a rest and we were happy to laze around our home. Other weekends were filled with birthday parties, visits with family in Melbourne, or a day trip somewhere fun for the kids. There were no iPads, no online chats and no iPad games. My children hadn’t been introduced to technology other than what they had access to at school. There were considerably fewer arguments between siblings.
As a part of my essential “me time”, some weekends, I’d take a drive to somewhere out of town. I’d pack the car with my photography gear and snacks, and off I’d go to enjoy a day of discovering somewhere new, capturing it on my camera. Other times, this may have been a last-minute decision, and off I’d go. I can’t begin to describe how much I looked forward to these days and all the beautiful places I got to discover. This was a new pleasure that I was incorporating into my life, and it was doing amazingly well in pointing me in the right direction in terms of my bigger goal, “recovery”.